Trump the Projectionist

Seeing that Trump often refers to Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” got me thinking about projection. Not the kind of projection that used to happen in movie theaters, but the psychological kind. It’s theorized that people sometimes defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others. It’s an old idea that was later developed in detail by Sigmund Freud:

Freud considered that in projection thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else. What the ego repudiates is split off and placed in another. [Wikipedia]

So let’s consider the principal criticisms, i.e. insults, Trump throws at Clinton.

(1) Hillary is crooked.

Of course, Trump might be the most crooked, corrupt person ever to win the presidential nomination of a major party. It’s been documented that, as a New York City real estate developer, he had links to organized crime. He’s accused by the attorney generals of various states of committing fraud. He’s bragged about paying politicians to do his bidding and the evidence indicates his contributions or bribes have paid off. He’s been sued thousands of times. He’s been fined by the IRS. He has a habit of not paying people who work for him, such as subcontractors who worked on his buildings. His bankruptcies have made it impossible to borrow money from American banks, so he’s borrowed large sums from Russian lenders who have connections to Putin and his brand of criminal capitalism. Trump says he’s contributed millions to charity, and probably taken tax deductions for those contributions, but in many cases he didn’t make those contributions at all or he made them with other people’s money. Plus he won’t release his tax returns. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has been investigated over and over for years and years and nobody has found real evidence of any corruption at all.

(2) Hillary is a liar.

Every respectable commentator and fact-checker has pointed out that Trump lies more often than any other presidential candidate ever. He lies about being against the Iraq War, for example, when he wasn’t. He lies about contributions he’s made. He lies about statistics. He lies about who he knows and what he’s done. He has built his whole campaign on lies and bullshit. Clinton is a politician who says self-serving or misleading things sometimes, but less than most politicians do. You can look it up.

(3) Hillary can’t be trusted.

When people say this, it’s never clear what she supposedly can’t be trusted to do. Given her long public record, it’s undeniable that she would govern as a center-left Democrat, more liberal on social issues than some, and less liberal on military or foreign policy issues than others. Trump, on the other hand, has a history of not paying his debts. That’s why he’s sued so often. Certainly, his ex-wives and business partners shouldn’t have trusted him. Furthermore, he regularly flip-flops between policy proposals. Aside from a general animus toward certain groups and a vague promise to make America great, it isn’t clear what he thinks about anything, aside from how wonderful he is and how much he loves money. As many have said, there’s no telling what he would do as President, because he doesn’t know himself.

(4) Hillary is trigger happy.

Trump criticizes Clinton for voting for the Iraq invasion and for supporting our intervention in Libya. Yet he was in favor of both those actions until he was against them. Trump himself, however, has advocated war crimes, such as killing the families of terrorists and seizing Iraq’s oil. He also advocated bringing about regime change in Iran after their disputed 2009 election. Most recently, in response to provocations from Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf: “When [the Iranians] circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.” Quoting Chas Danner of New York Magazine:

So in one day, Donald Trump said that he both supported regime change and didn’t support regime change (even though he has always supported regime change), and then later suggested he’d go to war with one of the countries he is still willing to publicly support regime change in, just as soon as they … give us the finger from a little boat?

(5) Hillary is running a disgusting, issue-free campaign.

Every sentient being with any interest in American politics knows by now that Trump’s campaign has been in the gutter since he announced his candidacy. Aside from his amazing ability to lie in the face of all evidence, he’s insulted entire classes of people, as well as specific individuals, on a daily basis. Hillary Clinton has said she regrets saying that half of Trump’s supporters are deplorable (although many observers have pointed out that 50% or more of his supporters do indeed hold deplorable views). 

Regarding the issues, nobody has ever accused Hillary Clinton of being short on issue statements or policy proposals. She’s been criticized instead for being too caught up in the details of policy. Trump, on the other hand, has rarely said anything concrete about anything, including his signature proposals to build a very big wall, deport lots of people and keep out Muslims. Not surprisingly, one of his more specific policy proposals was to enact a tax cut that would theoretically save him and his children millions of dollars (assuming we know roughly how well he’s doing). Anyone doubting that Clinton has been more issues-oriented can visit their respective websites. Clinton’s features a wide-ranging discussion of lots of issues. Trump’s doesn’t.

On the issue whether Trump is projecting his serious inadequacies onto Clinton, it can hardly be said that the jury is still out.

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